You’ve heard the story about the ‘Catholic terrorist’ Guido Fawkes and the English parliament. You know what they did to him when he was ratted out by informers. And unless you’ve been living under a rock these past years, you’ve heard about V for Vendetta, the Wachowski siblings’ movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic book icon. Even if you haven’t watched it yet, then you’ve almost certainly seen the lead character V’s legacy in footage and images from demonstrations across the planet’s capital cities in recent years:
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this revolutionary movie has inspired a generation to ‘rise up’. It has certainly been a fitting prop! Britons traditionally celebrate today with a bonfire in commemoration of Fawkes’s death and continuity of the status quo. What most don’t realise is that they are celebrating a crime by the elite against the people.
After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had had a rough time under her reign had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. Alas, he was not, and this angered a number of young men who decided that violent action was the answer.
One young man in particular, Robert Catesby suggested to some close friends that the thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics.
To carry out their plan, the conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder – and stored it in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.
But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear that some innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th.
The warning letter reached the King, and the King’s forces made plans to stop the conspirators. Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught, tortured and executed. […]
The story of the Gunpowder Plot is an interesting one. It is generally accepted that it would have been unlikely that the conspirators could gather 36 barrels of gunpowder and store them in a cellar under the house of Lords without the security forces of the day getting suspicious. Furthermore, there is serious doubt about whether the letter mentioned above was in fact genuine. In fact, it is believed today to have been fabricated by the King’s officials. Historians suggest that the letter was simply a tool for the King’s officials who already knew about the plot from the very mouth of one of the plotters.
As a tool for the king’s men, the letter was ideal. It made it easy to explain how the King found out about the Plot and stopped it just in time before his untimely death. At the same time, the letter was vague enough to give the officials all the latitude they wanted in falsifying confessions and to pursue their own anti-Catholic ends. In fact, we could go further and suggest that the entire plot was a set-up, a 17th-century ‘false-flag’, if you will.
So while the British today misguidedly celebrate the execution of a man whose main aim was to liberate them from injustice, the mask that has come to represent that man via the movie V for Vendetta is today a symbol of that same desire to liberate the ordinary citizen from the grinding, relentless death machine that is civilization in the modern age.